Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome1 -- By: David J. MacLeod

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 006:2 (Winter 1997)
Article: Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome1
Author: David J. MacLeod

Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome1

David J. MacLeod2

A Review Article

Thomas Howard’s Nineteenth century Predecessor

As a college student I was greatly blessed by the ministry of the local chapter of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. Catholic classmates attended meetings of another campus group known as the Newman club, which, I came to learn, was named for John Henry Newman. Newman was an Anglican churchman who eventually made his way into the Roman Catholic Church and died as a Cardinal. In recent years I have developed an interest in 19th century British church history, and a very important chapter in that history was the Oxford Movement in which John Henry Newman played a major role. The Oxford Movement, led by men with an interest in the early Fathers and medieval Christianity, aimed at restoring the High Church (Catholic) ideals of 17th century Anglicanism. Many of its leaders, like Newman, eventually became Catholics.

Newman was a contemporary of John Nelson Darby, another major figure in the 19th century religious landscape.3 There were a couple of interesting connections between the two men. For one thing, Newman’s brother, Francis, was an early admirer of Darby’s and was for a time a Brethren missionary.4 More

importantly, Darby, like Newman, was greatly troubled by the condition of contemporary church life. Both men thought a great deal about Roman Catholicism and its professed holiness, catholicity, and antiquity. While Newman became a Catholic, Darby became a committed, biblical Evangelical. Cardinal Newman’s famous autobiography, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, is the subject of a devastating review in Darby’s Collected Writings.5

I thought of Newman as I read Thomas Howard’s Lead, Kindly Light, the title of which is borrowed from the Cardinal’s well-known hymn. Howard’s book is similar in many ways to that of Newman, although it is much briefer. Both men made an evangelical profession of faith early in life, both spent many years in mulling over the claims of Romanism, both eventually were received into the Catholic Church, and both published well-written, winsome spiritual personal histories. And for both conversion to Romanism was not so much an intellectual or theological phenomenon as it was a psychological one.6 Howard does not seem to have objected so much to the theology of Evangelicalism, which he ...

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